What data can’t do, and maths without numbers

29th March, 2021

The New Yorker reviews “The Data Detective” – a wonderful essay from Hannah Fry titled What Data Can’t Do. Go for the anecdote about Tony Blair, stay for the phrase “insidious Kahnemanian swap”.

Book of the week: Math without Numbers by Milo Beckman. I picked this up to skim read because I was interviewing Beckman for More or Less. I was hooked. Of course anyone with a passing familiarity with subjects such as topology and set theory will know that there’s a lot of fascinating maths without numbers, but what is delightful about the book is less the cute concept and more the vivid clarity. I knew most of the mathematics here, but it is delightfully presented.

(I also skimmed and enjoyed the new Think Big by Grace Lordan. An old-school self-help book about living your dreams and being your best self, except that Lordan actually knows plenty of behavioural science, so the evidence base is a lot stronger than many rival books.)

Ten Rules For Thinking Differently About Numbers. Another shout-out for my thread of threads on Twitter, if you care to read and retweet.

How to Vaccinate The World is coming close to the end of the series. The penultimate episode is available here. If you haven’t come across the series, I think it’s worth a listen – some great panel discussions with top experts. There are also standalone interviews with Bill Gates, Larry Brilliant and Anthony Fauci.

My talk at the Centre for Policy Studies is online.

My new book, “The Data Detective” was published in the US/Canada on 2nd February. (Elsewhere the same book is titled “How To Make The World Add Up”.)

“Nobody makes the statistics of everyday life more fascinating and enjoyable than Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson

“This entertaining, engrossing book about the power of numbers, logic and genuine curiosity”- Maria Konnikova

I’ve set up a storefront on Bookshop in the United States and the United Kingdom – have a look and see all my recommendations; Bookshop is set up to support local independent retailers.

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